En Route to a Fencing First in Israel


    Marshal Davis describes the beginning of his journey to Israel to coach the U.S. fencing team at Maccabiah.

    BY: Marshal Davis

    I am incredibly excited, honored and humbled to coach about 50 fencers representing the United States at the third largest sporting event in the world, behind the Olympics and World University Games.

    I previously coached Team USA at the 2011 European Maccabi Games in Vienna, Austria. At those games, Team USA Fencing won 13 individual medals and medals in all three team events.

    It was an incredible experience to be part of the largest group of Jewish people to set foot in a Former Nazi territory since World War II. At opening ceremonies, attended by numerous dignitaries, the Austrian president for the first time publicly took responsibility for Austrian collaboration with the Nazis. That was preceded by the teams marching out of the courtyard of Vienna's city hall to see giant Israeli flags hanging from the building notorious for its balcony where Hitler infamously riled crowds with his speeches.

    Personally, this will be my first time in Israel. I was selected to go on Birthright when I was a student at the University of Florida, but the trip fell through when the Second Intifada broke out. This is an experience I've been longing for since then. To couple that with coaching Team USA in the sport I love is just something words cannot describe.

    Team USA Fencing will compete in epee, sabre, and foil individual and team events. The events will be separate for men and women in three age groups: Open, Juniors (born 1995-1998) and Masters (aged 40 and over).

    Individual fencing events start with dividing up the competitors into pools. In a given pool, all fencers compete against each other in five touch bouts where the first fencer who scores five points against his or her opponent wins (or whoever is ahead after 3 minutes and 1 minute of overtime.)

    Fencers from all pools are ranked based on wins and seeded into a direct elimination bracket. This is similar to the March Madness basketball bracket system, but in fencing the size of the bracket varies based on the number of entrants. So there may be an initial bracket of 64, 128, 32, and so on. The fencer who first scores 15 touches or is ahead after the time expires wins the bout.

    For team events, the format is Olympic 45-touch relay. Each team (again, separate by weapon, gender and age category) has three fencers. Not counting an optional alternate, every fencer faces off against every fencer on another team for a total of nine bouts up to 45 cumulative touches. For example, if Team A is winning 5-3 after the first bout, the next two fencers will fence until the one reaches 10, and so on until one team hits 45. This is a very exciting format because often matches go back and forth as a strong fencer makes up a large deficit or a weaker fencer gives up a big lead.

    Signing off from the El Al terminal at JFK Airport,

    Marshal Davis

    Outside of coaching the U.S. Fencing team at Maccabiah, Marshal Davis works as an attorney at Davis Law and coaches at Swarthmore College and Liberty Fencing Club in Warrington.